May 5, 2006

BYJ in Real Life- as seen by President Sohn


Bae Yong Joon in Real Life – as seen by IMX President Sohn Il Hyung
(from Korean Drama Guide – “First Love”)
Published by NHK - August 2005


Chan-woo in “First Love” is Close to the Real BYJ

My relationship with Bae Yong Joon began from the year 2003. It started with my idea of holding a fan meeting for the Japanese fans, and I tried to get in touch with his manager. It took me 6 months to actually meet YJ, but since, I think I’ve been pretty successful in building up a relationship of mutual trust, not only as a business partner, but as human beings as well. I hesitate to say this, as it may sound tacky, but he calls me “hyung” (big brother), and shows his concern for me in many ways. He was with me for my birthday last year, and really put a lot of effort into choosing a present for me.

Because I am not very good in showing my concern towards others, I do not call him for matters other than business, but he calls me on his cell phone quite often. He says things like, “I know you must be busy, but are getting enough rest?”, or “We’ve got to think about our health. Let’s go for a physical check-up together” (laughs). He has dogs, and I have a bird at home, so we talk about pets, too.

On the topic of “First Love” being aired in Japan, he says that “I’m grateful, but I’m sort of worried about it because it is a drama that was made in the days when I was still a novice actor”. I, too, had my concerns as it is a series depicting the Korean society of a particular era, and I was not sure if the Japanese audience would enjoy it. But as things turned out, that was not much of an obstacle – I received enthusiastic comments from the fans like “I’m totally engrossed in it!” which made me very happy.

I was not living in Korea at the time when “First Love” had become a big hit there. But I did know that an actor by the name of Bae Yong Joon was immensely popular. My first impression of him upon seeing the drama was, “What a muscular kid!” (laughs) YJ was still a newcomer, so I would imagine that he was clueless about the drama world, and was busy doing as he was told. For that very reason, I think the real YJ comes through on screen. Also, the character of Chan-woo is similar to YJ. It seems that back in his high school days, there were times when he was quite naughty, and he was probably strong when it came to fights. I sometimes work out with him in the gym, and I can tell you that he is really muscular. It’s almost frightening when you are near him. (laughs)

One time, just by coincidence, I had a chance to watch “First Love” with him. He mentioned that he experienced a really dangerous incident when he was riding a motorcycle. “I really though I was going to die,” he said. By the way, I also saw “Papa” with him once, too. It seems to upset him quite a bit to see his own acting from those days, and he asked me to turn it off. He was full of vigor back then and that is appealing in its own way, but I have to admit that when it comes to depth of character, he is much better now …


My relationship with Bae Yong Joon began from the year 2003. It started with my idea of holding a fan meeting for the Japanese fans, and I tried to get in touch with his manager. It took me 6 months to actually meet YJ, but since, I think I’ve been pretty successful in building up a relationship of mutual trust, not only as a business partner, but as human beings as well. I hesitate to say this, as it may sound tacky, but he calls me “hyon” (big brother), and shows his concern for me in many ways. He was with me for my birthday last year, and really put a lot of effort into choosing a present for me.

Because I am not very good in showing my concern towards others, I do not call him for matters other than business, but he calls me on his cell phone quite often. He says things like, “I know you must be busy, but are getting enough rest?”, or “We’ve got to think about our health. Let’s go for a physical check-up together” (laughs). He has dogs, and I have a bird at home, so we talk about pets, too.

On the topic of “First Love” being aired in Japan, he says that “I’m grateful, but I’m sort of worried about it because it is a drama that was made in the days when I was still a novice actor”. I, too, had my concerns as it is a series depicting the Korean society of a particular era, and I was not sure if the Japanese audience would enjoy it. But as things turned out, that was not much of an obstacle – I received enthusiastic comments from the fans like “I’m totally engrossed in it!” which made me very happy.

I was not living in Korea at the time when “First Love” had become a big hit there. But I did know that an actor by the name of Bae Yong Joon was immensely popular. My first impression of him upon seeing the drama was, “What a muscular kid!” (laughs) YJ was still a newcomer, so I would imagine that he was clueless about the drama world, and was busy doing as he was told. For that very reason, I think the real YJ comes through on screen. Also, the character of Chan-woo is similar to YJ. It seems that back in his high school days, there were times when he was quite naughty, and he was probably strong when it came to fights. I sometimes work out with him in the gym, and I can tell you that he is really muscular. It’s almost frightening when you are near him. (laughs)

One time, just by coincidence, I had a chance to watch “First Love” with him. He mentioned that he experienced a really dangerous incident when he was riding a motorcycle. “I really though I was going to die,” he said. By the way, I also saw “Papa” with him once, too. It seems to upset him quite a bit to see his own acting from those days, and he asked me to turn it off. He was full of vigor back then and that is appealing in its own way, but I have to admit that when it comes to depth of character, he is much better now.

This is the hardest shooting I ever experienced”
- Said YJ at the set “April Snow”


I went to the see the set of “April Snow” about 3 times. The director for this film (Hur Jin Ho) doesn’t create storyboards - rather, he likes to change the actors’ lines on the spot. BYJ often says, “I am not suited to become an actor. The other actors are so great – they can do as they are told immediately. But I can’t do it.” Because he is not the dexterous type, he prepares himself thoroughly before a shooting. For example, even for a CM, he goes through days of preparation for just one line. At the site, even when the staff gives their OK, he is not satisfied. He insists, “Let me try that again”.

However, in this film, he is often asked to come up with things different from what he prepared, in terms of movement and expressions etc. That seems to be quite difficult for him. There are times when it takes all night to shoot a drama, and those tend to be exhausting physically. But for this movie, it seems to put a strain on him mentally, too, as he needs to create his lines with the director as they go along. But I think that this provides a good opportunity for him to find a new dimension in himself. There seems to be a change in his way of acting, and attitude as well. The experience of shooting this film will probably broaden his abilities as an actor. YJ himself said that he looked forward to that.

I saw fans at the set, but I think that probably puts pressure on him. For instance, the shooting on the first day took all night. It was a very cold night, and I think the temperature was about 10 degrees below zero. But YJ wants to smile for his fans because they are there at the site, that’s the kind of guy he is. Because he values his fans so much (to the extent he calls them “family”), he cannot ignore the fans that come to see him. He cares more about the fans than himself. I personally would prefer to provide him the environment to concentrate on the shooting.

He Really Gets talkative When it Comes to Tea

Yong Joon has tremendous curiosity, and an inquisitive mind. He is a meticulous guy, too. He loves good food, and would go out to eat at a traditional Korean food restaurant which could be an hour drive by car. He is very lively when he talks about such things. Because he knows so much about food ingredients and the diverse local cuisine of Korea, he gets pretty intense when he starts talking about it. He seems to cook himself, and it’s said that he is good at things like pasta. I think he likes Italian in particular, but he is OK with food from any country. As for Japanese food, he loves “natto” (fermented soybeans). He claims that he could eat bowls and bowls of rice just with natto. He has tried all kinds of natto, and came to the conclusion that the ones wrapped in straw are the best.

He has never cooked me anything, but I have been invited to tea. He loves tea so much that he even made a tea room in his home using furniture that was used in the film “Untold Scandal”. He has his tea parties there, and we would spend like 3 hours drinking tea. But it’s not like we’re enjoying a good talk while we’re drinking – YJ himself is constantly moving in and out of the room, pouring us tea, then washing the cup, and pouring us the next one. He makes comments like, “Notice how the aroma is different from the other one?” or “This one is from the so-and-so province of China”… Oh yes, it can go on for a LONG time. (laughs)

He is relaxed when he is dining or drinking tea, but other than those times, I feel that he is always tense. Perhaps it’s inevitable, having that kind of job. Also, he has a very strong urge towards improving himself at all times. For example, when we have a talk about China, you will find that he has studied about it when the topic comes up the next time. I think he can’t forgive himself for not knowing. He hates to lose, and even when we go bowling, he would play until he gets a score that satisfies him. He’s the type that would never give up until he wins. I’ve played video games with him a few times, and when I win, he would always say “One more game!” (laughs)

The Dream We Share is to Run a Restaurant with Local Cuisine

In my opinion, Bae Yong Joon is an actor who did not accomplish things with dexterity, and that is exactly why he was able to continue his career as an actor. He also put a lot of time in choosing his works. You can tell from the way he shoots “April Snow” and the commercials, that he is not the type to make many films in a year. However, though it was his usual routine to take many months off after doing a drama or movie, he will immediately start shooting the next drama after “April Snow”. I was very surprised when I first heard this, but I can feel the intensity of his spirit. The new drama deals with history. It’s not merely a period piece, but rather a fantasy, a spectacular drama. Because he will be playing a king who will appear in battle scenes, I think he will reveal a new aspect of himself, different from the intelligent and gentle character he has portrayed in the past.

What can be said about Korean actors in general is that they do not seek to only play roles with a fixed image, and this applies to YJ as well. In Japan, the image of his character in “Winter Sonata” is still very strong. Even with commercials, he is always asked to act as the Yon-sama in “Winter Sonata”. But I personally want to see him do something more comical or something more dynamic, a role which requires physical action. I really hope people can see much more of the YJ that people don’t know about, a new aspect of him.

Even now, he is constantly saying, “I have no confidence in my acting”. Although it is difficult to determine the criteria of good acting, I think he is an actor who is able to express himself in a way no one else can. He possesses strength while appearing to be gentle, and he has the magnetism to attract people in the most delicate of gestures and expressions.

I’m sure that fans want more opportunities to interact with him. But because YJ treasures his fans so much, he does not want to favor a certain group of fans. That is also the reason behind not wanting a fan club. It is because he considers his fans an important “family”. He is always thinking things like, what to do with the fans in Taiwan and Indonesia if he held an event in Japan...and what to do with the fans in the local areas of Japan if the event was to take place in Tokyo… I hope you would understand his feelings towards his fans.

I am hoping that I would be able to work with him in the field of cultural exchange, in areas other than film. One of the ideas we have is to run a restaurant that serves local cuisine that one can only eat in a certain part of the country. I have been talking about it with him from last year, and he is really enthusiastic about it, too. He already seems to have ideas on the kind of tableware and chopsticks he wants to use. Food has a history, and is a rich expression of the culture of the country, so I hope to introduce it to the Japanese people through serving food in a restaurant.

It is not my intention to persuade people to love everything about Korea. But I do hope to be active in providing opportunities for the Japanese to meet the people and culture of Korea, and to lead them to drop preconceived ideas and prejudice about the country. It is my wish to have people relate to Korea in a “normal” way, and not as something special.

7 comments:

bb said...

hey flowerbossa,
you worked really fast... didn't expect you to churn out this trans so quickly.

know what? i've said this before, i just love reading yong joon's interviews... but we all know how he prefers to keep a low profile, so we don't get a lot of those. so, the next best thing would be to read interviews by people close to him.

oh ya, i also like to read personal accounts of their encounters with him, people who ain't fans.

anyhow, like i said on quilt, really enjoyed this piece. can't wait for the next one. hehe, for purely selfish reasons, i hope this is a long, long, long piece!

mishio said...

Hi there-
wow, if not for an occasional skim-trip of bb's sidebar, wouldn't realize that you've taken on this hobby! Congrats - it's a great looking site. Hope to hear lots more from your perspective in the days to come!

And yes, this is a really special interview - I love it for the same reasons everyone has said...the chance to know that little bit more about how he is, how he thinks, what he likes, etc...but it's also changed a bit how I view Mr. Sohn. Us fans can never thank you hard-working sisters enough to care enough to translate & let us experience this.

flowerbossa said...

BB & mishio,

Thank you for stopping by!
Just came back from a weekend trip to the mountains with my family.
TWO WHOLE DAYS without YJ!
Boy, am I proud of myself!

Yes, I love this interview, too.
Following him and his passions
- it's a fun trip for all of us, isn't it?!

Toujours_BYJ said...

wow, 2 whole days without YJ, I'm proud of you too, my dear Flowerbossa.
Thank you very much for translating this interview, as bb and mishio, I really enjoy this article because it makes us know a little bit more about him.

bb said...

hee... two whole days without YJ huh? not easy for addictive bae-blogger-fans isn't it?

bet you log onto the internet the first moment you got :p

welcome back, sista :)

flowerbossa said...

bb,

you saw right through me...

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